1 Kings 11

CHAPTER XI

Solomon's attachment to strange women, and consequent idolatry,

1, 2.

Number of his wives and concubines, 3.

In his old age they turn away his heart from God, 4.

He builds temples to idols, burns incense and sacrifices to

them, 5-8.

The Lord is angry with him, and threatens to deprive him of the

kingdom, but will leave one tribe for David's sake, 9-13.

The Lord stirs up Hadad, the Edomite, to be his enemy; the

history of this man, 14-22.

He stirs another adversary against him, Rezon the son of

Eliadah. He and Hadad plague Israel, 23-25.

Jeroboam also becomes his enemy, and the reason why, 26-28.

Ahijah the prophet meets Jeroboam, and promises, in the name of

the Lord, that God will rend Israel from the family of Solomon,

and give him ten tribes, 29-39.

Solomon, hearing of this, seeks to put Jeroboam to death, who

escapes to Egypt, where he continues till the death of Solomon,

40.

Solomon dies, after having reigned over Israel forty years; and

his son Rehoboam reigns in his stead, 41-43.

NOTES ON CHAP. XI

Verse 1. Many strange women] That is, idolaters; together with

the daughter of Pharaoh: she was also one of those strange women

and an idolater. But many think she became a proselyte to the

Jewish religion; of this there is no evidence.

Verse 3. He had seven hundred wives, princesses] How he could

get so many of the blood royal from the different surrounding

nations, is astonishing; but probably the daughters of noblemen,

generals, &c., may be included.

And three hundred concubines] These were wives of the second

rank, who were taken according to the usages of those times; but

their offspring could not inherit. Sarah was to Abraham what these

seven hundred princesses were to Solomon; and the three hundred

concubines stood in the same relation to the Israelitish king as

Hagar and Keturah did to the patriarch.

Here then are one thousand wives to form this great bad man's

harem! Was it possible that such a person could have any piety

to God, who was absorbed by such a number of women? We scarcely

allow a man to have the fear of God who has a second wife or

mistress; in what state then must the man be who has one

thousand of them? We may endeavour to excuse all this by saying,

"It was a custom in the East to have a multitude of women, and

that there were many of those whom Solomon probably never saw,"

&c., &c. But was there any of them whom he might not have seen?

Was it for reasons of state, or merely court splendour, that he

had so many? How then is it said that he loved many strange

women?-that he clave to them in love? And did he not give them

the utmost proofs of his attachment when he not only tolerated

their iniquitous worship in the land, but built temples to their

idols, and more, burnt incense to them himself? As we should not

condemn what God justifies, so we should not justify what God

condemns. He went after Ashtaroth, the impure Venus of the

Sidonians; after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites; after

Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites; and after the murderous

Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. He seems to

have gone as far in iniquity as it was possible.

Verse 7. The hill that is before Jerusalem] This was the Mount

of Olives.

Verse 9. The Lord was angry with Solomon] Had not this man's

delinquency been strongly marked by the Divine disapprobation, it

would have had a fatal effect on the morals of mankind. Vice is

vice, no matter who commits it. And God is as much displeased

with sin in Solomon as he can be with it in the most profligate,

uneducated wretch. And although God sees the same sin in

precisely the same degree of moral turpitude as to the act itself,

yet there may be circumstances which greatly aggravate the

offense, and subject the offender to greater punishment. Solomon

was wise; he knew better; his understanding showed him the vanity

as well as the wickedness of idolatry. God had appeared unto him

twice, and thus given him the most direct proof of his being and

of his providence. The promises of God had been fulfilled to him

in the most remarkable manner, and in such a way as to prove that

they came by a Divine counsel, and not by any kind of casualty.

All these were aggravations of Solomon's crimes, as to their

demerit; for the same crime has, in every case, the same degree of

moral turpitude in the sight of God; but circumstances may so

aggravate, as to require the offender to be more grievously

punished; so the punishment may be legally increased where the

crime is the same. Solomon deserved more punishment for his

worship of Ashtaroth than any of the Sidonians did, though they

performed precisely the same acts. The Sidonians had never known

the true God; Solomon had been fully acquainted with him.

Verse 11. Forasmuch as this is done of thee] Was not this

another warning from the Lord? And might not Solomon have yet

recovered himself? Was there not mercy in this message which he

might have sought and found?

Verse 13. Will give one tribe-for David my servant's sake] The

line of the Messiah must be preserved. The prevailing lion must

come out of the tribe of Judah: not only the tribe must be

preserved, but the regal line and the regal right. All this must

be done for the true David's sake: and this was undoubtedly what

God had in view by thus miraculously preserving the tribe of Judah

and the royal line, in the midst of so general a defection.

And for Jerusalem's sake] As David was a type of the Messiah,

so was Jerusalem a type of the true Church: therefore the OLD

Jerusalem must be preserved in the hands of the tribe of Judah,

till the true David should establish the NEW Jerusalem in the same

land, and in the same city. And what a series of providences did

it require to do all these things!

Verse 14. The Lord stirred up an adversary] A satan, . When

he sent to Hiram to assist him in building the temple of the Lord,

he could say, There was no satan, see 1Ki 5:4; and all his

kingdom was in peace and security,-every than dwelt under his

vine, and under his fig tree, 1Ki 4:25: but now that he had

turned away from God, three satans rise up against him at once,

Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam.

Verse 15. Was gone up to bury the slain] The slain Edomites; for

Joab had in the course of six months exterminated all the males,

except Hadad and his servants, who escaped to Egypt. Instead of

bury the slain, the Targum has to take the spoils of the slain.

Verse 17. Hadad being yet a little child.] naar

katan, a little boy; one who was apprehensive of his danger, and

could, with his father's servants, make his escape: not an infant.

Verse 18. These arose out of Midian] They at first retired to

Midian, which lay to the southwest of the Dead Sea. Not supposing

themselves in safety there, they went afterwards to Paran in the

south of Idumea, and getting a number of persons to join them in

Paran, they went straight to Egypt, where we find Hadad became a

favourite with Pharaoh, who gave him his sister-in-law to wife;

and incorporated him and his family with his own.

Verse 22. Let me go in any wise.] It does not appear that he

avowed his real intention to Pharaoh; for at this time there must

have been peace between Israel and Egypt, Solomon having married

the daughter of Pharaoh.

Verse 23. Rezon the son of Eliadah] Thus God fulfilled his

threatening by the prophet Nathan: If he commit iniquity, I will

chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the

children of men; 2Sa 7:14.

Verse 24. And reigned in Damascus.] Rezon was one of the

captains of Hadadezer, whom David defeated. It seems that at this

time Rezon escaped with his men; and; having lived, as is

supposed, some time by plunder, he seized on Damascus, and reigned

there till David took Damascus, when he subdued Syria, and drove

out Rezon. But after Solomon's defection from God, Rezon, finding

that God had departed from Israel, recovered Damascus; and joining

with Hadad, harassed Solomon during the remaining part of his

reign. But some think that Hadad and Rezon were the same person.

Verse 26. Jeroboam the son of Nebat] From the context we learn

that Jeroboam while a young man was employed by Solomon to

superintend the improvements and buildings at Millo, and had so

distinguished himself there by his industry and good conduct as to

attract general notice, and to induce Solomon to set him over all

the labourers employed in that work, belonging to the tribes of

Ephraim and Manasseh, called here the house of Joseph. At first

it appears that Solomon employed none of the Israelites in any

drudgery; but it is likely that, as he grew profane, he grew

tyrannical and oppressive: and at the works of Millo he changed

his conduct; and there, in all probability, were the seeds of

disaffection sown. And Jeroboam, being a clever and enterprising

man, knew well how to avail himself of the general discontent.

Verse 29. When Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem] On what errand he

was going out of Jerusalem, we know not.

Ahijah the Shilonite] He was one of those who wrote the history

of the reign of Solomon, as we find from 2Ch 9:29, and it is

supposed that it was by him God spake twice to Solomon; and

particularly delivered the message which we find in this chapter,

1Ki 11:11-13.

Verse 31. Take thee ten pieces] The garment was the symbol of

the kingdom of Israel; the twelve pieces the symbol of the twelve

tribes; the ten pieces given to Jeroboam, of the ten tribes which

should be given to him, and afterwards form the kingdom of Israel,

ruling in Samaria, to distinguish it from the kingdom of Judah,

ruling in Jerusalem.

Verse 36. That David my servant may have a light alway] That his

posterity may never fail, and the regal line never become extinct.

This, as we have already seen, was in reference to the Messiah. He

was not only David's light, but he was a light to enlighten the

Gentiles.

Verse 37. According to all that thy soul desireth] It appears

from this that Jeroboam had affected the kingdom, and was seeking

for an opportunity to seize on the government. God now tells him,

by his prophet, what he shall have, and what he shall not have, in

order to prevent him from attempting to seize on the whole

kingdom, to the prejudice of the spiritual seed of David.

Verse 38. And build thee a sure house] He would have continued

his posterity on the throne of Israel, had he not by his

wickedness forfeited the promises of God, and thrown himself out

of the protection of the Most High.

Verse 39. But not for ever.] They shall be in affliction and

distress till the Messiah come, who shall sit on the throne of

David to order it and establish it in judgment and justice for

ever. Jarchi says, on this verse, "When the Messiah comes, the

kingdom shall be restored to the house of David."

Verse 40. Sought-to kill Jeroboam.] He thought by this means to

prevent the punishment due to his crimes.

Unto Shishak king of Egypt] This is the first time we meet with

the proper name of an Egyptian king, Pharaoh being the common name

for all the sovereigns of that country. Some suppose that this

Shishak was the Sesostris so renowned for his wars and his

conquests. But it is likely that this king lived long before

Solomon's time.

Verse 41. The book of the acts of Solomon?] These acts were

written by Nathan the prophet, Ahijah the Shilonite, and Iddo the

seer; as we learn from 2Ch 9:29. Probably from these were the

Books of Kings and Chronicles composed; but the original documents

are long since lost.

Verse 42. Solomon reigned-forty years.] Josephus says fourscore

years, which is sufficiently absurd. Calmet supposes him to have

been eighteen years old when he came to the throne, and that he

died A.M. 3029, aged fifty-eight years; and, when we consider the

excess in which he lived, and the criminal passions which he must

have indulged among his thousand wives, and their idolatrous and

impure worship, this life was as long as could be reasonably

expected.

Verse 43. Solomon slept with his fathers] He died in almost the

flower of his age, and, it appears unregretted. His government was

no blessing to Israel; and laid, by its exactions and oppressions,

the foundation of that schism which was so fatal to the unhappy

people of Israel and Judah, and was the most powerful procuring

cause of the miseries which have fallen upon the Jewish people

from that time until now.

I. IT may now be necessary to give a more distinct outline of

the character of this king.

1. In his infancy and youth he had the high honour of being

peculiarly loved by the Lord; and he had a name given him by the

express authority of God himself, which to himself and others must

ever call to remembrance this peculiar favour of the Most High.

There is little doubt that he was a most amiable youth, and his

whole conduct appeared to justify the high expectations that were

formed of him.

2. He ascended the Israelitish throne at a time the most

favourable for the cultivation of those arts so necessary to the

comfort and improvement of life. Among all the surrounding nations

Israel had not one open enemy; there was neither adversary, nor

evil occurrent, 1Ki 5:4. He had

rest on every side, and from the universal and profound peace

which he enjoyed, the very important name Jedidiah, "beloved of

the Lord" which was given him by Divine authority was changed to

that of Solomon, the Peaceable, 2Sa 12:24, 25, which at once

indicated the state of the country, and the character of his own

mild, pacific mind.

3. To the dying charge of his pious father relative to the

building a temple for the Lord, he paid the most punctual

attention. He was fond of architecture, as we may learn from the

account that is given of his numerous buildings and improvements;

and yet it does not appear that he at all excelled in

architectural knowledge. Hiram, the amiable king of Tyre, and his

excellent workmen, were the grand directors and executors of the

whole. By his public buildings he doubtless rendered Jerusalem

highly respectable; but his passion for such works was not on the

whole an advantage to his subjects, as it obliged him to have

recourse to a burdensome system of taxation, which at first

oppressed and exasperated his people, and ultimately led to the

fatal separation of Israel and Judah.

4. That he improved the trade and commerce of his country is

sufficiently evident: by his public buildings vast multitudes were

employed; and knowledge in the most beneficial arts must have been

greatly increased, and the spirit of industry highly cultivated.

Commerce does not appear to have been much regarded, if even

known, in Israel, previously to the days of Solomon. The most

celebrated maritime power then in the world was that of the

Tyrians. With great address and prudence he availed himself of

their experience and commercial knowledge, sent his ships in

company with theirs to make long and dangerous but lucrative

voyages, and, by getting their sailors aboard of his own vessels,

gained possession of their nautical skill, and also a knowledge of

those safe ports in which they harboured, and of the rich

countries with which they traded. His friendly alliance with the

king of Tyre was a source of advantage to Israel, and might have

been much more so had it been prudently managed. But after the

time of Solomon we find it scarcely mentioned, and therefore it

does not appear that the Jews continued to follow a track which

had been so successfully opened to them; their endless

contentions, and the ruinous wars of the two kingdoms, paralyzed

all their commercial exertions: till at length all the maritime

skill which they had acquired from the expert and industrious

Tyrians, dwindled down to the puny art of managing a few boats on

the internal lakes of their own country. Had it not been for the

destructive feuds that reigned between the two kingdoms of Israel

and Judah, that country might have become one of the best and

richest maritime powers of either Asia or Europe. Their situation

was grand and commanding, but their execrable jealousies deprived

them of its advantages, exposed them to the aggressions of their

enemies, and finally brought them to ruin.

5. I have intimated that Solomon was truly pious in his youth;

of this there can be no doubt; it was on this account that the

Lord loved him, and his zeal in the cause of true religion, and

high respect for the honour of God, are strong indications of such

a frame of mind. Had we no other proof of this than his prayer for

wisdom, and his prayer at the dedication of the temple, it

would put the matter for ever beyond dispute, independently of the

direct testimonies we have from God himself on the subject. He

loved the worship and ordinances of God, and was a pattern to

his subjects of the strictest attention to religious duties. He

even exceeded the requisitions of the law in the multitude of his

sacrifices, and was a careful observer of those annual festivals

so necessary to preserve the memory of the principal facts of the

Israelitish history, and those miraculous interventions of God in

the behalf of that people.

6. There can be no doubt that Solomon possessed the knowledge of

governing well; of the importance of this knowledge he was duly

aware, and this was the wisdom that he so particularly sought from

God. "I am," said he, "but a little child; I know not how to go

out or come in; and thy servant is in the midst of a great people

that cannot be counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant

an understanding heart to judge thy people, and that I may discern

between good and bad; for who is able to judge this thy so great a

people? And the speech pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked

this thing;" 1Ki 3:8-10. This

wisdom he did receive from God; and he is here a pattern to all

kings, who, as they are the vicegerents of the Lord, should

earnestly seek that wisdom which is from above, that they may be

able to know how to govern the people intrusted to their care;

because, in every civil government, there are a multitude of

things on which a king may be called to decide, concerning which

neither the laws, nor the commonly received political maxims by

which, in particular cases, the conduct of a governor is to be

regulated, can give any specific direction.

7. But the wisdom of Solomon was not confined to the art of

government, he appears to have possessed a universal knowledge.

The sages of the East were particularly distinguished by their

accurate knowledge of human nature, from which they derived

innumerable maxims for the regulation of man in every part of his

moral conduct, and in all the relations in which he could possibly

be placed. Hence their vast profusion of maxims, proverbs,

instructive fables, apologues, enigmas, &c.; great collections of

which still remain locked up in the languages of Asia,

particularly the Sanscrit, Arabic, and Persian; besides those

which, by the industry of learned men, have been translated and

published in the languages of Europe. Much of this kind appears in

the books of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus in the Apocrypha, and in

the very excellent collections of D'Herbelot, Visdelou, and

Galand, in the Bibliotheque Orientale. That Solomon possessed

this wisdom in a very high degree, the book of Proverbs bears

ample testimony, leaving Ecclesiastes for the present out of the

consideration.

8. As a poet, Solomon stands deservedly high, though of his one

thousand and five poems not one, except the book of Canticles,

remains. This ode alone, taken in a literary point of view, is

sufficient to raise any man to a high degree of poetic fame. It is

a most interesting drama, where what Racine terms the genie

createur, the creative genius, every where appears; in which the

imagery, which is always borrowed from nature, is impressive and

sublime; the characters accurately distinguished and defined, the

strongest passion, in its purest and most vigorous workings,

elegantly portrayed; and in which allusions the most delicate, to

transactions of the tenderest complexion, while sufficiently

described to make them intelligible, are nevertheless hidden from

the eye of the gross vulgar by a tissue as light as a gossamer

covering. Such is the nature of this inimitable ode, which, had it

not been perverted by weak but well designing men to purposes to

which it can never legitimately apply, would have ranked with the

highest productions of the Epithalamian kind that ever came from

the pen of man. But alas! for this exquisite poem, its true sense

has been perverted; it has been forced to speak a language that

was never intended, a language far from being honourable to the

cause which it was brought to support, and subversive of the

unity and simplicity of the ode itself. By a forced mode of

interpretation it has been hackneyed to death, and allegorized to

destruction. It is now little read, owing to the injudicious

manner in which it has been interpreted.

It was scarcely to be expected that the son of such a father

should not, independently of inspiration, have caught a portion of

the pure poetic fire. Though the spirit of poetry, strictly

speaking, is not transmissible by ordinary generation, yet most

celebrated poets have had poetical parents; but in many cases the

talent has degenerated into that of music, and the spirit of

poetry in the sire has become a mere musical instrument in the

hands of the son. This however was not the case with the son of

David, for though vastly inferior to his father in this gift, he

had nevertheless the spirit and powers of a first-rate poet.

9. His knowledge in natural history must have been very

extensive; it is said, "He spake of trees, from the cedar that is

in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall. He

spake also of beasts, of fowls, of reptiles, and of fishes;"

1Ki 4:33. All this knowledge has perished; his countrymen, the

prophets excepted, were without taste, and took no pains to

preserve what they did not relish. A man of such mental power and

comprehension under the direction of Divine light must have spoken

of things as they are. His doctrine therefore of generation and

corruption, of nutrition, vegetation, production, aliments,

tribes, classes, families, and habits, relative to the different

subjects in botany, zoology, ornithology, entomology, and

ichthyology, which are all evidently referred to here, must have

been at once correct, instructive, and delightful. I have already

lamented the labour it has cost our Rays, Tourneforts, Linnes,

Buffons, Willoughbys, Swammerdams, and Bloschs, to regain those

sciences which possibly were possessed in their highest degree by

the Israelitish king, and which, alas! are all lost, except a few

traces in the book of Ecclesiastes, if that work can be traced to

so remote an age as that of Solomon.

10. As a moral philosopher the author of the book of

Ecclesiastes occupies no mean rank. At present we may consider

this work as a production of Solomon, though this is disputed, and

the question shall be considered in its proper place. This book

contains such a fund of wisdom, applied to the regulation of life,

and all referred to the proper end, that it most deservedly

occupies a high place in Biblical ethics, and deserves the closest

attention of every reader.

11. The proofs of Solomon's vast wisdom, as brought into

practical effect, lie in a very small compass, because his

history in the Bible is short, his own writings in general lost,

and the annals of his reign, as compiled by Nathan the prophet,

Ahijah the Shilonite, and Iddo the seer, long since perished. The

decision between the two harlots is almost the only instance.

Of his interesting interview with the queen of Sheba, and the

discussions into which they entered, we have only the fact stated,

without the least detail of particulars. Those who have read the

Concessus of Harari, or the Heetopadesa, of Veeshnoo Sarma, will

regret that the conversations of the wisest of men, with probably

the most intelligent of women, should have been lost to the world,

which may be reasonably concluded to have been as far superior to

the excellent works above referred to, as they are beyond the

maxims of Rochefoucault, and the sayings of Madame Maintenon.

12. The wisdom of the East has ever been celebrated; and if we

may believe their own best writers, much of what they possess has

been derived from Solomon. Encomiums of his wisdom are everywhere

to be met with in the Asiatic writers; and his name is famous in

every part of the East. Most of the oriental historians, poets,

and philosophers, mention Soliman ben Daoud, "Solomon the son of

David." They relate that he ascended the throne of Israel at the

death of his father, when he was only twelve years of age, and

that God subjected to his government, not only men, but good and

evil spirits, the fowls of the air, and the winds of heaven.

They agree with the sacred writers in stating that he employed

seven years in building the temple at Jerusalem.

Solomon's seal, and Solomon's ring, are highly celebrated by

them, and to these they attribute a great variety of magical

effects. They state that without his ring he had not the science

of government; and having once lost it, he did not remount his

throne for forty days, as being destitute of that wisdom without

which he could not decide according to truth and equity. But these

things are probably spoken allegorically by their oldest writers.

Of the throne of this prince they speak in terms of the most

profound admiration. I have met with the most minute description

of its magnificence, its ivory, gold, and jewels, and an estimate

of its cost in lacs of rupees! According to those writers it had

12,000 seats of gold on the right hand for patriarchs and

prophets, and as many on the left for the doctors of the law, who

assisted him in the distribution of justice.

In various parts of the Koran Solomon is spoken of in terms of

the highest respect, and is represented as a true believer;

though, through the envy of demons, magic and sorcery were

attributed to him. Mohammed speaks of this in the second surat of

his Koran. The story, in sum, is this: The devils, by God's

permission, having tempted Solomon without success, made use of

the following stratagem to blast his reputation: they wrote

several books of magic, and hid them under his throne; and, after

his death, told the chief men that if they wished to know by what

means Solomon had obtained absolute dominion over men, genii, and

the winds, they should dig under his throne. This they did, and

found the aforesaid books full of impious superstitions. The

better sort would not learn these incantations; but the common

people did, and published them as the genuine works of Solomon.

From this imputation the Koran justifies him, by saying, Solomon

was not an unbeliever, surat 2. From the wonder-working signet and

ring of the Asiatics came the Clavicle of Solomon, so celebrated

among the Jewish rabbins, and the Christian occult philosophers;

for such things found in Cornelius Agrippa, and such like writers,

are not late inventions, but have descended from a very remote

antiquity, as the Koran and the various commentators on it

sufficiently prove. See Calmet and Sale.

The oriental traditions concerning this prince have been

embodied in the Soliman Nameh of Ferdusi, in Persian, and in the

Soliman Nameh of Uscobi, in Turkish. D'Herbelot mentions one of

these histories in Persian verse, containing 1571 couplets.

Indeed, the traditions concerning the wonderful knowledge of

Solomon, which abound so much in the East, are at least an

indirect proof that many things relative to this prince have been

preserved among them which are not mentioned in our sacred books,

but which they have blended so miserably with fables that it is

impossible now to distinguish the precious from the vile.

Works attributed to Solomon have existed in different ages, from

his time till the present. Eusebius states that Hezekiah, finding

the Jews putting too much confidence in the books of Solomon,

relative to cures and different occult arts, ordered them to be

suppressed. Josephus positively says that Solomon did compose

books of charms to cure diseases, and conjurations to expel

demons, Antiq., lib. viii., cap. 2. He states farther, that a Jew

named Eliezar cured several demoniacs in the presence of

Vespasian, by reciting the charms which had been invented by

Solomon. R. D. Kimchi speaks of a book of Solomon entitled The

Cure of Diseases, which Genebrard supposes to be the same work of

which Josephus speaks. And Origen speaks of conjurations which

were used by the Jews in his time, and which they professed to

derive from the books of Solomon.

There are still extant books of this kind attributed to Solomon,

such as The Enchantments, The Clavicle, The Ring, The Hygromantia,

The New Moons, and The Shadows of Ideas; but these, as they now

stand, are the inventions of quacks and impostors, and entitled to

no regard. If there were any books containing the wisdom of

Solomon, they are either irrecoverably lost, or exist in mutilated

fragments among the Asiatic sages; and are disfigured by being

connected with improbable tales, and pretended mantras or charms.

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